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Interview with Steve McHugh

Please welcome Steve McHugh to The Qwillery. A Glimmer of Hope, the 1st novel in The Avalon Chronicles, was published on April 1st by 47North.

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Steve:  I knew I wanted to be an author when I was at school, so about 13 or 14, and my English teacher told me to go get some books from the library that were out of my usual comfort zone. I got Stephen King’s It, Terry Pratchett’s Men At Arms, and David Gemmell’s Legend. That was when I knew I wanted to be an author.

Fast-forward a few years, to when I was about to become a father for the first time at 25, and I knew I needed to start writing seriously. I didn’t want to be that person who said, “One day,” so I started writing. I joined an online writing group, and I learned the craft.

So, it was really a combination of wanting to write, and needing to write, but also the fact that I wanted to be able to say that I at least tried.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Steve:  A hybrid, definitely that. Before I start a book, I sit down with a notepad and some pens and I go over the world-building and character creation. As I’m doing that, I let the story start to build, and I start jotting down bits that I want to have happen during the story.

By the time it comes to actually sit down and write, I’ll know the beginning and end of the story, and the main scenes that I want. The later of which, might not always be in the right order—and they have a tendency to change as needed—but it’s usually a good indication of where everything will finish.

So, when I write, I know what I want in the chapter I’m working on, and the next one after that, although it’s often a massive surprise to me when something happens I wasn’t expecting.
I tried just plotting everything out in detail, and it sucked. I got irritated that it didn’t go the way I’d planned, because characters don’t always do what they’re told. My hybrid way works for me as it allows me to keep the surprise of what happens, but gives me a framework to move around in.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Steve:  Two years ago I went fulltime author. I was on book 5 in the Hellequin Chronicles (I think), and I had 3 years of work lined up, so I took the plunge. Turns out working from home is not the beautiful paradise land that I expected.

My TV is here. As is my PS4, and books, and all the cool stuff I could be playing around with when not writing. Actually forcing myself to sit down and get on with my job is something that isn’t always easy. I love being an author, it’s easily the best job I’ve ever had, but working from home can be an exercise in having to force yourself to get away from distractions.

There’s also the issue of being shut away in my office for days and weeks at a time, especially when I have deadlines, so there’s a constant need to remember to go see people. Now, that’s not so bad because I have a wife and 3 children, who are more than happy to remind me that I don’t need to lock myself away, but it’s still hard work to stay on top of seeing people outside of the house. I’ve gotten better at it, but that work/life balance, took some getting used to.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Steve:  Short answer: everything.

It’s not really the most descriptive answer ever, but it’s pretty close to being accurate. Long answer; my wife, my kids, my friends and family, anime, movies, music, books, comics, videogames… the list really does go on.

More specifically, I’ve always been influenced by Asian cinema. I grew up watching a lot of films from Japan/China/South Korea etc, and as I’ve grown up, that love of the way they make action films and thrillers, is something that has continued. Same with Anime. Both of those things influence my writing, at the very least they influence how I write action scenes, and use magic in stories.

There are scenes from comics I read growing up, that inspired me to write one scene or another, and I’ve played videogames that did something I thought was cool and figured out if I could incorporate something similar.

Inspiration comes from all around me, which is probably why my brain rarely switches off.

TQIn December 2017 the 7th and final book in the Hellequin Chronicles was published. Now you have a new Urban Fantasy series starting with A Glimmer of Hope, the first novel in the Avalon Chronicles. Do these Urban Fantasy series have anything in common?

Steve:  Both series are set in the same world, and both have some of the same characters. The end of the Hellequin Chronicles left the world in a very different place to where it started, and while the first Avalon book takes because before that shift, the second and third take place after. They’re both action-adventure series with magic, monsters, and mayhem, and they were both a ton to write.

As someone who loves Mythology, it’s nice that my world has mythologies from all different regions and periods of history, so I can pick and choose which ones to use for which book. The Hellequin books had a lot of Greek, Arthurian, and Mesopotamian, but the Avalon books have a lot of Norse mythology.

So, while there are quite a few similarities, and the series take place in the same world, Layla is a very different character to Nate, so it’s been nice to write something different, but familiar at the same time.

TQWhat appeals to you about writing Urban Fantasy?

Steve:  Mostly, because it’s fun. That’s why I write anything. If I’m not enjoying the genre, I probably won’t enjoy the story I’m telling.

I like the idea of taking characters from mythology and bringing them into the 21st century, sometimes kicking and screaming all the way, I like looking through myths and trying to figure out exactly what could be considered fact from fiction. For example, I had the idea that most of the stories regarding Zeus changing into animals to have sex with people, were made up by Hera in revenge for him being an absolute arse to her. It’s fun being able to twist the characters that most will have heard of, into something very different. And being able to then take that into a modern setting is a very interesting idea.

Also, urban fantasy lets me have my cake and eat it. I can write about Hades living in Canada one chapter, and then have another realm, which is linked to earth, but is more epic fantasy in nature. The ability to write a fantastical story that incorporates different genres I love is something that makes me happy to work with the Urban Fantasy genre.

TQTell us something about A Glimmer of Hope that is not found in the book description.

Steve:  It has one of my favourite actions scenes I’ve written to date. It starts with a car chase, and ends with a run through the woods while monsters are chasing them. It’s was a huge amount of fun to write, not just because of the action and fighting that take place, but also because it’s the introduction of one of my favourite characters from the Hellequin Chronicles to this book, and the first thing he says is a line from Terminator.

Whenever I write a book, I like to make sure that no matter what it’s about, it has elements to it that make me smile, and that one chapter pretty much made me smile the entire time I was writing it.

TQIn the A Glimmer of Hope who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Steve:  There are a few which were quite easy to write. Most of the cast from the Hellequin Chronicles are easy now, considering I’ve spent so long with most of them. Tommy the werewolf star wars geek, and Remy the… well, Remy, are probably the easiest two as with Tommy I get to let lose my own Star Wars nerd, and with Remy I get to write all the things people probably shouldn’t say out loud, and he just does.

The hardest was probably Layla to begin with. As the main protagonist of the story, I needed to get her right, and make sure that she was interesting to follow. She hasn’t had the easiest of lives, and has some issues she’s avoided for a large part of her life, so it was difficult trying to figure out how a 21 year old woman, who had gone through so much, would react to these massive changes in her life.

TQWhich question about A Glimmer of Hope do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Steve:  That’s a hard question. Probably, who is your favourite character that was created for the A Glimmer of Hope?

That’s a great question, Steve’s brain. Probably Harry. I like Harry a lot. Harry is the son of a Chinese-American general in the US army, and a British doctor mum. He’s in his 20s, and his entire life plan is to stay in further education as long as possible so he doesn’t have to go and get a proper job. He’s one of the few humans in the book that become involved with the story as he’s one of Layla’s best-friends. Harry is just a genuinely nice person who is amazed at everything he discovers about a world he had no idea existed, and it’s interesting to have him just think everything is so cool and not freaking out over having met werewolves, sorcerers, and the like.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from A Glimmer of Hope.

Steve:  The first one is from Tommy, just after Layla discovers the world she knew isn’t exactly the full story: This world will crush you if you think you’re a monster when you’re not. There are enough actual monsters out there already.

The second is Layla thinking about her job, which in many ways was a cathartic moment for me to write as it mirrors how I felt about a job of mine at the time: “It wasn’t that the job was hard, or that the people were bad; it was just a combination of boredom and a complete and total apathy from those in management. It was as if they didn’t care what happened to the majority of people who worked for them, and it created a “them and us” scenario that made work feel like she was constantly trying to do a good job for no reason whatsoever.”

TQWhat's next?

Steve:  I have a few things that are next for me. The second and third Avalon Chronicles books will be out in July and October respectively (A Flicker of Steel, and A Thunder of War). Seeing how they’re both written and off to my publisher, I’m going to be spending the rest of the year writing the first book in an Epic Fantasy series I’ve been wanting to work on for a few years now, as well as the first book in the series after the Avalon Chronicles. So, I guess I’ll be kept busy for a while yet.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Steve:  Thank you for having me.

A Glimmer of Hope
The Avalon Chronicles 1
47North, April 1, 2018
Hardcover and Kindle eBook, 351 pages

From Steve McHugh, the bestselling author of The Hellequin Chronicles, comes a new urban fantasy series packed with mystery, action, and, above all, magic.

Layla Cassidy has always wanted a normal life, and the chance to put her father’s brutal legacy behind her. And in her final year of university she’s finally found it. Or so she thinks.

But when Layla accidentally activates an ancient scroll, she is bestowed with an incredible, inhuman power. She plunges into a dangerous new world, full of mythical creatures and menace—all while a group of fanatics will stop at nothing to turn her abilities to their cause.

To protect those she loves most, Layla must take control of her new powers…before they destroy her. All is not yet lost—there is a light shining, but Layla must survive long enough to see it.


A Flicker of Steel
The Avalon Chronicle 2
47North, July 3, 2018
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook

Avalon stands revealed, but the war is far from over. For Layla Cassidy, it has only just begun.

Thrust into a new world full of magic and monsters, Layla has finally come to terms with her supernatural powers—and left her old life behind. But her enemies are relentless.

Sixteen months after her life changed forever, Layla and her team are besieged during a rescue attempt gone awry and must fight their way through to freedom. It turns out that Avalon has only grown since their last encounter, adding fresh villains to its horde. Meanwhile, revelations abound as Layla confronts twists and betrayals in her own life, with each new detail adding to the shadow that looms over her.

As Layla fights against the forces of evil, her powers begin to increase—and she discovers more about the darkness that lies in her past. As this same darkness threatens her future, will she be ready to fight for everything she holds dear?

About Steve

Steve McHugh is the bestselling author of the Hellequin Chronicles series and the new The Avalon Chronicles, whose first book A Glimmer of Hope (47North) is out now.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @stevejmchugh

Interview with Steve McHugh, author of the Hellequin Chronicles - April 15, 2015

Please welcome Steve McHugh to The Qwillery. Prison of Hope, the 4th novel in the Hellequin Chronicles, was published on April 14th by 47North.

Interview with Steve McHugh, author of the Hellequin Chronicles - April 15, 2015

TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Steve:  It’s lovely to be here. I’ve written all my life, from when I was very young, but it wasn’t until the birth of my first daughter, ten years ago, when I was 25 that I began to take it seriously. Haven’t really looked back since then.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser? What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Steve:  A bit of both, really. I tend to plot out the main story, character arcs and know what big things need to happen, but everything else happens as it happens. If I did too much plotting, I’d only ignore it, and if I did none, my 130,000 word books would be double that.

TQ:  Describe Prison of Hope (Hellequin Chronicles 4) in 140 characters or less.

Steve:  It’s an action-packed, Urban Fantasy about a 1600 year old sorcerer who has to find the Titan king, Cronus, before he can start a civil war.

TQ:  Tell us something about Prison of Hope that is not in the book description.

Steve:  It’s the most fun I’ve ever had writing a book. It’s certainly got the most brutal fights in it, but also the most humor and in some instances outright geekiness in it.

TQ:  What inspired you to write the Hellequin Chronicles? What appealed to you about writing dark Urban Fantasy? In you opinion, what makes an Urban Fantasy dark?

Steve:  I always loved mythology and magic, and knew I wanted to write Urban Fantasy. I’d read Kelley Armstrong, Jim Butcher and the like and knew I wanted to work in that genre.

I think the violence makes it’s dark. And not just the perpetrated violence. Nate has the ability to be as nice and calm as anything one moment, flick a switch, and then get hurt people badly. And he’s the good guy. He knows that there’s a darkness inside him, he knows that if he lets it out people will die, and he’s constantly trying to balance being a better friend to those he cares about, and ensuring that if anyone messes with them, then he will descent upon them like the apocalypse.

TQ:  Tell us about the magic system in the Hellequin Chronicles.

Steve:  There are a few different types of magic. There’s witch magic, which we’re introduced to in book 4, which is when a human access magic through the use of runes, which in turn begins to eat at that person’s life force.

And then there’s sorcerer’s magic. Sorcerers are born with an innate ability to use magic (although it doesn’t manifest until their teens). Sorcerer magic falls into two categories. The first is elemental, and it’s the one all sorcerers learn at a young age. From Fire, Water, Air and Earth, a sorcerer will learn two, but can never learn the opposite of what they know, so no one can have Fire and Air or Water and Earth.

The second category is called omega magic and only the most powerful sorcerers can use it. It consists of Shadow, Light, Matter and Mind. Nate, the main character, isn’t powerful enough to use these, in fact very few are.

Apart from these, some sorcerers can also merge their elements into a different magic, so fire and air becomes lightning. That’s explored in book 4.

The problem with magic is that it’s a living thing, it wants to be used, and any sorcerer using too much will begin to hear it telling them how they should allow the magic to take over, how it will show the sorcerer just what he could do if he just allowed it to. The physical manifestation of the magic is called a nightmare. And anyone becoming one is put to death.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for Prison of Hope?

Steve:  Lots of research on Germany, both in the build up to the Olympics in 1936 and today. Also various types of nerve gas, and the exceptionally complicated lives of various Greek gods… yeah, it’s not exactly a laugh a minute with those two.

TQ:  In Prison of Hope, who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why? In the Hellequin Chronicles which character has surprised you the most?

Steve:  Nate is always the easiest, he’s lived in my head for a decade. Tommy the werewolf, and Nate’s best friend, is easy too… mostly because he’d basically me in a lot of ways. Except the werewolf bit.

The hardest was Cronus. Getting that complete arrogance that comes with being incredibly powerful, and the total disregard for anyone except his mission was quite tricky.

Tommy’s teenage daughter Kasey is always the one who surprises me. She’s fourteen and saved her father and Nate in a previous book by standing up to something terrifyingly evil. And in every book I put her in, she does something that shows how much she’s changing between stories. I love writing Kasey because I know for a fact that she will do something to surprise me at some point.

TQ:  Which question about Prison of Hope do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!


So far we’ve seen a lot of Greek and British mythology, do you plan on using others?

A great question. Book 4 has a lot more characters from Greek Mythology, but also some from Roman. In fact over the next few books, we’ll start to see more and more characters from different mythologies from Norse to Japanese.

TQ:  Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from Prison of Hope.


“I think a toy of me with a real spinning sphere of death, is an unlikely action figure.”

“So far I’ve gone a few years without tearing anyone’s head off for pissing me off. It’s going well.”

TQ:  What's next?

Steve:  Well book 5, Lies Ripped Open, is out in Aug. I’m currently writing a science fiction book, and then once that’s done I’ll be writing a book I’ve had plans for, for about a decade called Chimera. Very much looking forward to it.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Steve:  Thanks for having me.

Prison of Hope
Hellequin Chronicles 4
47North, April 14, 2015
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 512 pages

Interview with Steve McHugh, author of the Hellequin Chronicles - April 15, 2015
Long ago, Olympian gods imprisoned the demon Pandora in a human—Hope—creating a creature whose only purpose was chaos and death. Remorseful, the gods locked Pandora away in Tartarus, ruled by Hades.

Now, centuries later, Pandora escapes. Nate Garrett, a 1,600-year-old sorcerer, is sent to recapture her and discovers her plan to disrupt the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games, killing thousands in a misplaced quest for vengeance.

Fast forward to modern-day Berlin, where Nate has agreed to act as guardian on a school trip to Germany to visit Hades at the entrance to Tartarus. When Titan King Cronus becomes the second ever to escape Tartarus, Nate is forced to track him down and bring him back, to avert a civil war between those who would use his escape to gain power.

Prison of Hope is the fourth book in the highly acclaimed and action-packed dark urban fantasy series, the Hellequin Chronicles.

Interview with Steve McHugh, author of the Hellequin Chronicles - April 15, 2015
Steve McHugh is the author of the popular Hellequin Chronicles. The fourth book, Prison of Hope, is out on April 14th. He lives in Southampton on the south coast of England with his wife and three young daughters. When not writing or spending time with his kids, he enjoys watching movies, reading books and comics, and playing video games.

Blog  ~  Twitter @StevejMchugh  ~  Facebook


Crimes Against Magic
Hellequin Chronicles 1
47North, September 17, 2013
Trade Paperback and eBook, 420 pages

Interview with Steve McHugh, author of the Hellequin Chronicles - April 15, 2015
Book 1 in the Hellequin Chronicles.

How do you keep the people you care about safe from enemies you can’t remember?

Ten years ago, Nate Garrett awoke on a cold warehouse floor with no memory of his past—a gun, a sword, and a piece of paper with his name on it the only clues to his identity. Since then, he’s discovered he’s a powerful sorcerer and has used his magical abilities to become a successful thief for hire.

But those who stole his memories aren’t done with him yet: when they cause a job to go bad and threaten a sixteen-year-old girl, Nate swears to protect her. With his enemies closing in and everyone he cares about now a target for their wrath, he must choose between the comfortable life he’s built for himself and his elusive past.

As the barrier holding his memories captive begins to crumble, Nate moves between modern-day London and fifteenth-century France, forced to confront his forgotten life in the hope of stopping an enemy he can’t remember.

Born of Hatred
Hellequin Chronicles 2
47North, September 17, 2013
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 480 pages

Interview with Steve McHugh, author of the Hellequin Chronicles - April 15, 2015
There are some things even a centuries-old sorcerer hesitates to challenge…

When Nathan Garret’s friend seeks his help investigating a bloody serial killer, the pattern of horrific crimes leads to a creature of pure malevolence, born of hatred and dark magic. Even with all his powers, Nate fears he may be overmatched. But when evil targets those he cares about and he is confronted by dire threats both old and new, Nate must reveal a secret from his recently remembered past to remind his enemies why they should fear him once more.

Born of Hatred, set in modern London with historical flashbacks to America’s Old West, continues the dark urban fantasy of Crimes Against Magic, the acclaimed first book in the gritty and action-packed Hellequin Chronicles.

With Silent Screams
The Hellequin Chronicles 3
47North, February 18, 2014
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 466 pages

Interview with Steve McHugh, author of the Hellequin Chronicles - April 15, 2015
His name is Nathan Garrett, but he’s also known as Hellequin. And murdering one of his friends and trying to blow him up is a good way to get this centuries-old sorcerer’s full attention…

An old friend’s dead body, a cryptic note, and an explosion that almost costs him his own life propel Nate headfirst into a mystery involving a new threat from an old foe. Now he must piece together the connections between a grisly series of tattooed murder victims, an imprisoned madman, a mysterious alchemist, and a deranged plot to usurp the throne of the hidden realm of Shadow Falls, rival to the power of Avalon.

Can Nate avert the coming slaughter, or will he become the latest to fall in this clandestine war?

With the story careening between modern-day New York and Ontario and 1977 Maine, With Silent Screams continues the gritty and action-packed mix of urban fantasy and ancient mythology that mark Steve McHugh’s popular Hellequin Chronicles.

Interview with Steve McHughInterview with Steve McHugh, author of the Hellequin Chronicles - April 15, 2015

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